Ten Albums that Defined the Dot Com Era – Part 2

Click Here for Part One

I spent New Year's Eve 1999 at my ecstasy dealer's condo in E-ville (natch), staring at a spectacular view of San Francisco Bay. And even the twinkly bright city sported a patchy waterfront fog like the chin pubes on a 1990s hipster...

I'd spent the entire decade with the same girl, and as we approached the door to an obscene feast of cheese, booze, and drugs — we were stopped short by a pair of very pretty and very fucked up people.

"Oh my god," the gorgeous brunette half giggled, half implored, "do NOT eat the sushi!"

With that they stumbled down the stairs to god knows where. It was only 11 p.m...

We'd arrived late, and thank Christ. The party people were not happy, as Mr. E had generously spiked the catered sushi with liquid LSD. And while I certainly admired the opulence, I couldn't understand why he did it, since he — and most of the kids there — were more about pills and coke. (Plus, I'm not a fan of the Pearl Harbor approach to getting your friends ripped to the tits on acid. Or your enemies.)

It was a great night — despite the grumblings of some who weren't as fortunate as we were in our early warning about the hazards of the hamachi. We watched as the clock struck midnight, ignoring the media hype about a coming Y2K apocalypse, yet feeling on the brink of something.

For me it was huge personal change, good and bad. But because I'm not really a coke guy (well, sure, there's Vegas and... well, you smell what the Rock is cookin') — and because I had to drive us home — I stood out on the balcony of a brand new condo, built and rented with dot-com dollars, the only person there who wasn't on drugs.

What was I thinking?

1. Kruder & Dorfmeister — The K&D Sessions

Like I said before, this list is not in any kind of order. But, sure, placement means a lot, and in Part 1 of this top 10 list, my placement of Kid A in the #1 spot was no accident.

So I've certainly wrestled with this decision again for "Part 2". I feel like the following album is just as top-notch a time capsule for the period as any piece of art or expression. But in the 1990s, if you were anywhere in San Francisco where music was being played — apart from Lucky 13, the late, great Fulton Street Bar, or Zeitgeist — you heard The K&D Sessions, whether you liked it or not. And most MDMA-dabbling, sexuality-exploring, HTML-coding city dwellers liked it.

As downtempo DJ fodder, this record was as necessary to your arsenal as the Bible is to a missionary. As something you'd put on at your place after being up on E all night, it was quite simply perfect. (Not too quiet, not too perky...) As music to bang to, it was even better than Sade. And it holds up easily to this day, embodying the best of what DJ culture had to offer, tastefully, artfully, and not without wit ("Kruder and... Dorfmeister?").

2. Beck — Midnite Vultures

Beck - Midnight vultures

Beck took Prince's advice to heart — to party like it was 1999 — when the year actually came. And he pushed his tongue-in-cheek flirtations with blue-eyed soul to its limit, from the James Brown dance moves to the over-the-top blue-eyed soul wailing on the quintessential nerd ballad, "Debra." It was a stroke of genius for Beck to intentionally counteract the angst of the entire decade in 1999 with a record so giddily fun that it made his previous, Odelay! look practically dour.

It was different than the "K&D Sessions," which was best when coming back from the club/party/Bacchanalian clusterfuck. Midnite Vultures was the record you'd play on your way out while popping the pills or chopping the pills or hiding the pills or maybe even shoving 'em up yer arse (if you had the proclivity to do so).

What I'm saying is that there were lots of pills around...

3. LTJ Bukem — Progression Sessions

When compiling this list, I realized I'd almost forgotten about drum and bass. But while it's rare to hear this genre in its "pure" form these days, its influence can be heard in dubstep — all the rage this year — and on the London scene with acts like Joy Orbison. And at the turn of the millennium, drum and bass was a bold new form that embraced and exploited technology. In fact, it could not exist without it.

What was fascinating about drum and bass out in the clubs was how it cleaved a wedge between dancers on the dance floor. The shuffling, intricate rhythms of d&b aren't kind to the amateur booty-shaker, so you'd get a mix of weed-smokin' head-nodders (raises hand) plus those bold enough and skilled enough to pull some amazing, post-breakdance moves.

Roni Size was arguably as influential as Bukem, but it was Bukem's frequent live shows with MC Conrad that endeared him to San Franciscans. Still does.

4. Various Artists — Rushmore (Soundtrack to the Film)


You know what I remember about the 1990s? The yuppie fear of car-keying, as gentrification kicked into high gear in former working-class neighborhoods like the Mission and SOMA. The pitched battle between the recently enfranchised and the constantly disenfranchised. The inevitable defeat of the latter.

As a nerdy outsider from a low-income neighborhood, I actually had things in common with both groups, so I tended to stay out of the argument...

One thing I can say for sure, only one of these groups' contingents was listening to the "Rushmore" soundtrack. Mark Mothersbaugh's wittily wistful sensibilities mixed with mild moroseness to create a great soundtrack — not just to the film, but also to long-winded, angst-ridden posts to your LiveJournal. Shudder.

5. Moby — Play


Ugh. There, I said it. Not exactly one of my favorite records, by not exactly one of my favorite artists. I just can't risk people thinking that omitting it reflected a failure to grasp what people were listening to at the time.

So for you douchebags, here you go. And for the rest of you, I sure hope you enjoyed "Play"ing with me as I reflected on what was — no matter how you slice it — a fascinating era...in music.

Click Here for Ten Albumds That Defined the Dot Com Era - Part One

See Also:
Dan the Automator Remixes the Blue Angels
How the iPod Changes Culture
10 Video Moments from 2006
Paul McCartney on Drugs
Eight Druggiest Rock Star Stories

Ten Albums That Defined the Dot Com Era

So where were you 10 years ago?

Making more money than you were entitled to? Getting involved in a drug-fueled polyamorous relationship? Thinking about how after almost 20 years of prescience, Prince's 1999 might become oddly irrelevant?

Okay, you may be forgiven if you weren't having as much fun as you should have been having during the dot-com VC era. (Not by me. But whatever...) But there's no absolution if you weren't at least listening to some interesting music. This was the time of Napster's infinite-mp3-download-orgy, fer chrissakes!

I know, I know, there doesn't seem to be much nostalgia for that time. For comparison, it was only 10 years after Kent State that the creative process began that spawned The Big Chill. And not only am I unsure that this generation is capable of such a piece, I'm unsure that anyone is even interested in trying!

A lot of people are entitled to their share of bitterness over the burst of the dotcom bubble. Someone sold a lot of kids on the idea that the Brave New World had been reached. And when that wave of prosperity which brought us there — for a happy, shiny moment — rolled back violently, these kids found out even drugs wouldn't help.

But it's time for us to realize that the brevity of the whole dot-com era helps us distill its magic, as well as that bleakness which followed (and still continues to this day). At the time as someone who was older than most of the people I knew, I'd seen enough shit to enjoy the good times while they were there — and this attitude continues to inform my perspective.

Hence this piece...

But enough philosophizin'. If you love music like I do, these albums should trigger whatever nostalgia you feel is deserved by those times. Or maybe we can just be fascinated by the fact that 10 years from now, it's doubtful that the word "album" would even be applicable to such a list.

Whatever. Let's play!

1. Radiohead — Kid A

This list isn't in any particular order, but even so, I think this is a great place to start.

Today bands like Phoenix and Animal Collective think nothing of fusing elements of what used to be called "electronica" into a "band" context. But when the group that inherited the mantle of "The Greatest Rock Band in the World" from U2 seemed to barely unpack their guitars from their cases — in favor of sounds more akin to Aphex Twin — it was a bold step into the future.

Of course, the reaction from the rock crowd was a bit hyperbolic. If you listen to it now, Kid A is hardly a rejection of all things rock. The acoustic lament "How to Disappear Completely," the fuzz bass in "The National Anthem," the electric piano in Morning Bell — all of these represent a record grounded in song sensibility.

But yes, all these years later, as a DJ you can still work "Everything In Its Right Place" in its right place. Hypnotic — and propelled by the Fender Rhodes electric piano that defined this era in the band's history — "Everything" is a full, unabashed embrace of a new kind of pop that arguably hadn't been pushed forward since David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Kid A also allowed bespectacled hipsters who were way-too-Wilco to be caught dead listening to Hooverphonic a way to hear beats and blips they otherwise couldn't have accessed. So, uh, there's that.

2. The Flaming Lips — The Soft Bulletin

While some artists were ending the decade with a party vibe, Oklahoma's previously experimental freaks the Flaming Lips finally popped out of their chrysalis with a highly personal and intimate concept album — about death, mostly.

Couched in an inspired dynamic of lush soundscapes and (virtual) orchestration, mixed with a dash of punk sensibility — one lonely mic on the drum kit — Wayne Coyne's lyrics about the death of his father ("Waitin' on a Superman") and the band's bizarre struggles ("The Spiderbite Song") helped usher in the new age of post-ironic pseudo-sincerity.

3. Thievery Corporation — The Mirror Conspiracy

For the sake of disclosure, I am a DJ, and was arguably at the height of my "career" during the dot com era. So while you'll have to forgive me a bit of nostalgia and obvious subjectivity in this list's content, if you're in my demographic and think you didn't hear Thievery Corporation at that time — you're wrong. You might have wanted to hear the Dwarves instead, but you heard TC all the same.

There's no use denying the overwhelming presence of DJ-friendly acts and works on this list. But chill music, frisky enough to rock a club or a house party, meant the D.C. duo was a DJ's best friend. And at the same time I can recall hearing "The Mirror Conspiracy" blaring over PC speakers just as much as the Mackies.

4. Tool — Lateralus

Despite the above statements on the ubiquity and influence of electronica, it wasn't all about blips, beeps and knob-twiddling. There were also plenty of former nerds and misanthropes who still needed an outlet for frustrations that MDMA and getting laid hadn't quite ironed out.

In fact, I remember when this record came out — having almost forgotten the sheer boyish thrill of … metal! Rock Band was years away, and Hot Topic hadn't started marketing Iron Maiden shirts to 14-year-olds whose parents had barely hit puberty during the band's heyday. So indulgences like Lateralus were still a bit taboo.

However, this album has nothing to do with the adolescent nature of metal of yore. Like all of Tool's music, the art-rock flirting and complex themes and lyrics on songs like Schism make them strictly for grown-ups.

5. Air — The Virgin Suicides

For me, this record represents change.

Personally, it was a time of intense personal evolution and tumult. For Air, it was a complete reversal of the dreamy, kitschy charm of their debut album, Moon Safari. An opiate dream of a soundtrack, it owed as much to Pink Floyd's soundtrack to the film More as anything happening on a contemporary level at the time. "The Virgin Suicides" flew in the face of expectations for the French band, while helping create the moody atmosphere in Sofia Coppola's debut film.

For the ecstasy-driven culture of the dot commers, it presaged the comedown that one must expect when getting so high. Minor keys, dark themes, and no happy ending. It was still only 2000, and we were still sucking on the VC tit. But not for long.

Did Air know something we didn't?

Click here to read 10 Albums That Defined the Dot Com Era, Part II.

Rush: The Last Taboo

Rush in 1978

As the redheaded, one-eyed stepchild in the Mondo Globo omniverse, I’ve written about some really fucked up shit; pretty much everything this side of fecalphilia.

And while I’m generally not shy about exposing my own proclivities, I’m about to reveal one that pushes the very boundaries of counterculture sensibility.

I love Rush.

Now, upon revealing this in person to some, I’ve seen the color completely drain out of the face, in a way that could only be rivaled by a revelation of secret daughter dungeon proportions. In terms of relationships, you definitely don’t want to let this cat out of the bag to a prospective mate until sometime between the farting in the bed phase and marriage.

The band is currently on tour to promote its latest release Snakes & Arrows. The tour is actually an extension of last year’s summer outing, which ended up being the sixth highest-grossing tour of the season.

With such evergreen success (Rush has been playing the same venues since I first saw them … in 1982), why does going to a Rush show still feel almost like sneaking into a NAMBLA convention?

Because much of their material showcases the instrumental prowess of drummer Neil Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Geddy Lee, that’s bound to alienate some listeners right off the bat. And while the band has taken strides to make their music more accessible over the years (and Snakes & Arrows has a sharp, fresh sound that’s remarkably contemporary for such a, well, old band), they ain’t gonna be mentors on American Idol anytime soon.

But I suspect it has a lot to do with the amount of baggage that Rush carries with it. The mythology of this legendary Canadian trio is fed almost as much on misconception as it is on their worthy musical achievements (including multiple Grammy nominations) and rabid fan base.

Because of their willingness to play with their sound over the years (evolving from the Cream/Zeppelin power trio blueprint to Yes-like sprawling masterpieces to a full embrace of synthesizers and MIDI technology in the ‘80s before stripping back down to a purely guitar-based rock sound), Rush means different things to different people. Even fans argue about “which” Rush is the “real” Rush.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Rush = Dungeons & Dragons. Thematically speaking, Rush never were a sword-and-sorcery band, though that perception thrives among the unwashed. They did use sci-fi narratives, but only to advance a larger theme, as demonstrated best in their seminal album, 2112, where futuristic elements are dwarfed by the Ayn Rand-ian perspective.

While there’s no doubt that plenty of RPG nerds have been into Rush since those bones were first rolled, you can file this one under “All puppies are dogs, but not all dogs are puppies.” That is to say, in especially the small towns of America, when considering the circle of life that is high school ass-kicking, it has just as often been the case that the one listening to “2112” has been the ass-kicker as he has been the hapless, bespectacled victim.

Rush is a heavy metal band. Wait, Rush is an ‘80s synth-pop band. It seems unlikely that these two misconceptions could co-exist in the popular culture terrain, and it is. However, I have heard both of these assertions made, and not just by the average yahoo, but by the media (below-average yahoos). Obviously age is a factor in determining which false statement you subscribe to. If you’re between the ages of 40 and 50, and all you know about Rush is “Working Man,” I guess you might call that heavy metal. I mean, you could also call it afro-funk if you wanted to, but whatever. On the other hand, if you’re between the ages of 30 and 40, and your first exposure to Rush was the MTV video for “The Big Money,” you could be excused for thinking they were … uh … The Fixx?

Girls aren’t into Rush. Okay, so there’s probably about as many girls into Rush as there are guys who watch “The View,” but let the record show that they do exist. I dated a girl last year who, to my amazement, was into Rush, and proclaimed it so defiantly my big toe jumped up in my boot. (She dumped me because I smoke too much pot. Go figure.)

Black people don’t like Rush. I remember the claim being made that you're more likely to spot RU Sirius in da club with Young Jeezy than a black person at a Rush show. This made me understandably self-conscious given my sensitive liberalitude, so I made a point of looking around at the last couple of shows and was relieved to see some color in a sea of pale flesh. I mean, there are probably more blacks at a Dave Matthews concert, but then again there are more white people at a Michael Franti show, so again, go forth and figure.

Geddy Lee isn’t human. He’s some kind of chipmunk. The aforementioned ability of Rush to tinker with their sound is one of the things that endears them to their fans. Hell, there have even been times when critics have been in synch with the band’s sensibilities (Grace Under Pressure, for example, was very in touch with its time, 1984, and appealed to critics for about a minute.)

Of all these phases, however, the most recognized, and paradoxically revered and reviled, was the first seven years of the band’s career, when Geddy Lee’s high-pitched yelps defined Rush’s music. And while Lee has spent the last 25 years proving he could also emote with more warmth in his voice, one could argue it still dogs the band. But at the same time, it is that original quality that would go on to influence vocalists like the Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

So let it be known that when I see my favorite band at their stop at the Sleep Train Pavilion (!) in Concord in the Bay Area this weekend, the sense of rapture that will somehow manage to overtake the copious amount of booze and weed in my system comes from unashamedly indulging in something the masses will never understand: The taboo of Rush.

See also:
Top 10 Pillars of Led Zeppelin Mythology
The End of Internet Radio?
The Satanic Cosmology of Jack Chick

There Won’t Be Blood

There Won't Be Blood

When Lisa Bloch opened the drawer at San Francisco General Hospital that should have housed the trauma center’s blood supply last month, a lonely single pouch of type O-negative plasma tumbled in the empty space.

Bloch, director of communications at Blood Centers of the Pacific, was seeking to draw attention to the city’s dire shortage of blood by depicting it in graphic terms. The shortage got so bad early in the month that BCoP asked local hospitals to hold off on lesser-priority surgeries.

All across the country, large cities are struggling to keep supplies at sufficient levels. The reasons are a classically tragic conflict of supply (only about five percent of adults donate blood) and demand (day-to-day trauma center crises, national emergencies, the Iraq war).

Unfortunately, agencies that collect blood are fighting the battle to keep local and national blood supplies adequate with at least one hand tied behind their backs, because a sizable percentage of the population is barred from donating blood – gay men.

If you’re a man who has had sex with another man even once since 1977, you are not allowed to donate blood. The ban was instituted during the height of the '80s AIDS outbreak, before proper testing existed that could screen out infected blood.

But despite the leaps and bounds that have been accomplished in testing blood for HIV/AIDS, the Bush administration still doesn’t think the blood of gay males is good enough.

In San Francisco, given its higher-than-average gay male population, this keeps many who would like to donate from being able to help out in what has become a day-to-day crisis situation, let alone in the event of a local or national emergency.

But San Francisco proper has just more than 1 million people. Larger cities with a large gay male presence like Los Angeles and New York City (both of which have suffered from blood shortages recently) are also affected by the inability to tap into its gay males as a blood resource.

“We have gay men come in and are surprised the ban is still in effect,” said Bloch. “They’re ready to give blood, and it’s very frustrating that we can’t use it.”

BCoP was the very first organization imploring the government to soften its stance. In 2006, the Red Cross finally joined in the effort to get the Food and Drug Administration to implement the male-to-male (MSM) deferral.

“Today, we know much more about HIV,” the center wrote to the FDA. “The development of highly sensitive genetic tests for the virus has greatly reduced the “window” of transmission. Therefore, Blood Centers of the Pacific – along with the three national blood banking organizations: America’s Blood Centers, American Association of Blood Banks and the American Red Cross – believes that a 12-month deferral would adequately prevent transfusion-transmission of HIV.”

A 12-month deferral is consistent with other high-risk activities that may exclude someone from donating blood, including sexual contact with a prostitute, getting a tattoo (for hepatitis C) and traveling to a region endemic for malaria.

But the FDA not only refused, it didn’t even dignify the request with a response.

State Assemblyman Mark Leno, an openly gay male, is convinced the Bush administration is letting its obvious agenda against gays influence public policy on an issue that not only involves public health, but national security.

“There is indeed homophobia at work, and it’s not even very subtle,” said Leno. “None of this (the FDA’s inflexibility) is scientific.”

Like many, Leno was unaware of the policy until he tried to donate blood when he was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

“When I was on the board I got an invitation to participate in a blood drive, and was surprised to learn that as a gay man I wasn’t allowed to participate,” he said.

Leno likened the FDA policy to that of the Catholic church, which officially is “okay” with homosexuals, as long as they don’t actually do anything gay.

Ironically, heterosexuals who engage in high-risk sexual behavior are allowed to donate blood. Some feel the whole process needs to be revised to screen out high risk groups accordingly.

“They’re asking the wrong questions,” said Leno. “Ask what behaviors individuals are engaging in, not with whom.”

The issue is expected to go before the FDA again next month, though there doesn’t appear to be much hope that the current administration will implement the MSM deferral that blood centers are counting on.

Leno chuckled bitterly at the prospects, choosing instead to look forward. “With a Democratic administration, which I believe we’ll have next year, I’ll be working with House Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi to not only reverse this dangerous policy, but to address the shortage and the screening process.”

“I don’t know how much longer they can keep stalling,” said Bloch, who agreed that a change of administration might be necessary before the FDA takes any action.

With gay men in San Francisco making up somewhere between five and 10 percent of the city’s population, a change in policy could produce noticeable results.

“I think it could make an impact on local blood shortages,” said Bloch. “Any help is a good thing, especially in times like this.”

Top 10 Pillars of Led Zeppelin Mythology

Led Zeppelin a long time ago

At London's 02 Arena Monday night, rock gods Led Zeppelin will attempt to recreate the special alchemy that made them one of the most legendary live bands of their era.

Zeppelin were notoriously inconsistent on tour, with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham often exploring extended jams on band classics to varying effect. I've talked to people who were lucky enough to have seen them live, and the reactions range from "They didn't sound like the records" to "best 20-minute drum solo ever."

There was no doubt, however, that when the band was on they were like nothing else on earth. Zeppelin was doing three-hour-plus shows complete with acoustic sets when Bruce Springsteen was still playing bars in Asbury Park. And unlike contemporaries The Who and Pink Floyd, Zeppelin never used backing tapes or additional musicians, relying instead on sheer audacity, volume and Jones' underrated multi-instrumentalism (the man played everything from the Mellotron to the mandolin to a triple-necked acoustic monstrosity, often while performing the bass lines with his feet on custom bass pedals!).

And while the jury's still out on whether age and the lack of a huge element of their sound (Bonham) will render them incapable of getting a modicum of that magic back, in some ways it doesn't matter. For once again, the mighty Zeppelin have proved their incredible ability to stay relevant.

For those of you who aren't old enough to remember Lester Bangs dissing them in Creem magazine or the magic of bringing home the brown paper bag that held In Through the Out Door (or in an extreme example, being RU Sirius and having your first acid trip while listening to "Dazed and Confused"!), here are ten reasons I believe the mythos of Led Zeppelin remains etched in stone at a time when anything of lasting quality in pop culture seems almost impossible.

10. "Here's to My Sweet Satan … " Although you'd never know it by their slanderous remarks, America's more extreme branches of Christianity (Pentacosts, Baptists) never met a better friend/punching bag than Led Zeppelin. When crackpot preachers started playing rock records backwards in a desperate attempt to scare parents into burning their kids' records (the scene where Kathleen Turner does this to Kirsten Dunst's records in the film The Virgin Suicides shows the unintended hilarious results of this ridiculous act), Led Zeppelin was one of their first targets.

And what better tune to focus their bogeyman search on than "Stairway to Heaven?" The most famous "backwards masking" message meant to turn little Bobby from Buffalo to the side of Beelzebub was the alleged "Here's to my sweet Satan," warbled by Robert Plant.

Of course, the band denied this, and you don't have to be a Grammy-nominated sound engineer to hear what is clearly a big pile o' Christian crap.

9. The Bill Graham Beatdown Before thuggish hip hop was even an art form, let alone an industry, Led Zeppelin had a posse in full effect. Led (no pun intended) by Richard Cole, a coke-fueled maniac whose powers of physical intimidation were only outmatched by Zep's manager Peter Grant, their security was half drug-and-teen-procuring entourage, half security force.

Despite a mutually advantageous relationship in which both parties suckled at the new teat of stadium rock, the muscle behind both Zeppelin and Bill Graham Presents had run afoul of each other, by the very nature of their need for control. In 1977, during a multi-night stint at the Oakland Coliseum, the shit hit the fan.

When a BGP goon vied for a Darwin Award by roughing up the 400-lb Grant's young son backstage, the manager, Cole and Bonzo gave the poor sap and another employee a beatdown that ended in long hospital stays. Graham, ever the entrepreneur, kept charges from being filed long enough for Zep to finish the Oakland Stadium gigs.

8. This Album Has No Title Though commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV, Zep's fourth record not only had no actual title, but failed to display even the band's name on its cover. Instead, the band developed runes that stood for each member – Plant's consisted of a feather within a circle and is supposedly the Feather of Ma'at (the Egyptian goddess of justice and fairness); Jones' was three interlocking ovals; Bonzo's was also three interlocking ovals, and could either be a symbol for "man-wife-child" or the logo for Ballantine beer, depending on whom you ask; Page's (called "Zoso," which has also been used as the album's title by some fans) is the only one created by its bearer, and so its mystical significance remains a mystery.

Obviously, brass at Atlantic Records weren't exactly aroused by the unprecedented lack of identifying reference anywhere on the record. But the band's insistence on this concept formed the basis not only for their reputation as a fiercely anti-commercial artistic force, but also provided much of the mystique that was vital during the band's existence, and crucial to their continued legacy.

7. Led Wallet When Zep fans first heard the unmistakable bashing of John Bonham's drum intro to "Rock and Roll" in a Cadillac ad a couple of years ago, many were heard to utter a groan. But closer analyses of the handling of the catalog of the world's biggest rock band reveals a relatively tasteful restraint.

Especially when you consider that Jimmy Page was once referred to as "Led Wallet" for his unwillingness to part with a pence.

Still, the band has never performed again apart from a handful of mediocre events, all for charity (Live Aid, the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary). Jack Black was seen in the film "School of Rock" begging Page and Plant to allow Richard Linklater (who was also thwarted from using their songs in his film bearing an actual Zeppelin track name, "Dazed and Confused) to use their music for the soundtrack. They declined.

In fact, use of Zeppelin's music in film has been confined to the films of their pal, Cameron Crowe. Some argue this restraint is excessive – one could imagine the impact of a Zeppelin track in, say, a Scorsese film. It certainly would be nice for the guy not to have to mine the Stones all the time!

6. Peter Grant Led Zeppelin might have been the first rock band to make the business of being in a rock band a … business. Previously, bands like The Beatles would make money only when the number of records sold reached a staggering amount, and even then often under duress. Their contracts favored the record company to an obscene extent.

Zep's ability to establish a revenue producing powerhouse employing record sales, touring and merchandising was largely due to the wiles and weight of its manager, Peter Grant. A former pro wrestler, Grant was the basis for fictitious band manager Ian Faith's cricket bit in This is Spinal Tap. Further evidence of his style of communication can be seen in the new re-release of The Song Remains the Same, where Grant is seen practically ripping the head off a "cunt" who, at a show in Cleveland, failed to stop bootleggers from selling posters.

5. John Bonham Could Zeppelin have continued after its influential drummer died from choking to death on his own vomit after 40 measures of vodka?

Two words prove the perils of such an endeavor, had the band even had the heart and spirit to carry on – Keith Moon.

It's an easy argument to make that The Who's two post-Moon albums (Face Dances and It's Hard) diminish the band's catalog by causing it to sputter to an inglorious end. And while this might owe as much to a fading of Pete Townshend's genius (Zeppelin were more like Queen than The Who in this respect, with Jones making significant contributions throughout the band's career), Moon took more than just the drummer's throne with him to the grave.

He also took a huge part of the band's spirit, and while Moon was slightly more of an extroverted character, the fact that Bonham's simple "fantasy sequence" in The Song Remains the Same (showing such high-concept footage as him urging his cow along the pasture as well as intimate peeks into his home life) is the only one that isn't totally laughable either in concept or execution speaks volumes.

And even though there is something clearly fitting in having his son on the kit, in all respect, there is only one J. Bonham anyone will be thinking about when the band pulls out his showcase, "Moby Dick," as they're expected to.

4. Don Kirschner's Rock Concert with Led Zeppelin It never happened, and when I saw an old TV clip of Deep Purple recently, the wisdom of Zeppelin's avoidance of the medium of television (due both to the limitations of sound quality at the time as well as their desire to control their image and increase their mystique, not easy to do when you're playing for housewives on "The Mike Douglas Show") becomes very clear.

3. The Mud Shark An underground legend that went public with Frank Zappa's toss-off reference to it in "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" ("destined to take the place of the mud shark in your mythology!"), the story of a young band fucking a groupie with a small shark that had been caught while fishing out the window of Seattle's Edgewater Inn provided a blueprint for debauchery hardly equaled even today.

2. The Devil and Led Zeppelin In the commentary for his film The Man We Want to Hang, dedicated to the art of occult icon Aleister Crowley, filmmaker Kenneth Anger rather sheepishly admits that many of the pieces were seen courtesy of Jimmy Page, who had managed to consistently outbid Anger at auctions of the magician's work.

Then there's Page's acquisition of Crowley's Loch Ness mansion, in which many sinister acts of magick were perpetrated.

The guitarist's obsession with Crowley wasn't shared by the rest of the band, whose interest in the past didn't go much further than Elvis and "The Lord of the Rings." Still, a salacious media didn't hesitate to lump all in together, especially as Zep's fortunes seemed to turn dark toward the end (Plant's car accident in 1975, followed by troubled tours and the death of Plant's son in 1977).

1. What's in a Name? While the story goes that Keith Moon named the then-New Yardbirds "Lead Zeppelin" because he thought they'd go over like a lead balloon (badly), Page and Plant were immediately drawn to the inherent dynamics of light and heavy, which fit into their conversations about where they wanted to band's music to go.

Zeppelin weren't the first heavy rock band (and please don't call them heavy metal!), but they were the first to really understand and exploit the fact that heavy sounds even heavier when paired with lighter influences. Since then, rock bands from Iron Maiden to the Pixies to Nirvana have added new twists to the basic loud-quiet-loud dynamic.

Robert Plant once said the reason he thought people reacted to "Stairway to Heaven" favorably even after hearing it thousands of times is that it starts quietly and steadily builds in complexity and intensity throughout the duration of the song. At the same time, songs like "When the Levee Breaks" and "Kashmir" establish an intensity that never flags, but is still splashed with shades of shadow and light.

And that's the magic of Led Zeppelin, Charlie Brown.

See also:
Then End of Internet Radio?
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
The Satanic Cosmology of Jack Chick
Author/Trickster JT LeRoy
Dan The Automator Remixes the Blue Angels

Are We Losing the Fight for Porn?

It may not matter what the courts say about free speech or what the law is about adult content — because our Department of Justice has its own agenda.

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled that the government's 2257 statute against pornography is unconstitutional, which immediately prompted an ecstatic round of premature celebrations. Salon's tech blogger Machinist popped a boner the size of the Empire State Building. ("Hallelujah!" he wrote. "Haul out your 8 MM, put on some lounge music, get your partner — and maybe a gaffer, some stage hands, a caterer, a boom operator and your parents, who'll be so proud —and get down! The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled that you are free to make your own porn...")

Digital rights pundit Declan McCullough joined the frenzy, cheering that "this is likely going to be the last word unless the U.S. Supreme Court gets involved." But what looks like good news for porn looks like exactly the opposite — with a little history.

Explicit Justice

I wish I could be so blissfully ecstatic about the ruling, but this "unconstitutional" law enforcement has gone on for too long without any real consequences, despite previous major court rulings. In 1998, I was working my first adult content gig at a West L.A. company called Sundance and Associates, which among other things produced a series of print magazines which ran explicit classified ads, and was henceforth considered a "secondary producer" of adult content.

In 1998, Sundance sued Janet Reno, insisting that the first incarnation of the 2257 legislation failed to prove that by running these ads, Sundance was their "producer." The magazines were almost exactly the same as the Ohio magazines involved in last month's court decision, and our case ended up in the Tenth Circuit court, which ruled in our favor.

However, that ruling was never put to the test, because the Department of Justice never launched the inspections many producers feared they would. Instead, many content providers ranging from hardcore porn sites to internet dating services continued taking the greatest care in creating and keeping detailed records, fearing they'd otherwise face federal prosecution under a statute with "child pornography" in its title. Many even assumed the ruled-against legislation had remained intact and unchallenged!

In fact, U.S. Code 2257, which was passed under the guise of protecting children during the Clinton administration, instead puts anyone who's ever taken a sexually explicit photograph in jeopardy of federal prosecution. In 2005, Senators Hatch and Brownback overhauled the statute to address new technologies of production (like the interwebz), but with the troublesome "secondary producer" language remaining. The language in 2257 was ultimately slighted by the courts as being "poorly drafted...should never be used as a model of the English language" and "overbroad." (It's presently worded so that the naughty photo of you and your partner stored on your iPhone qualifies you as a producer of adult content.)

It's unknown how much producers struggled to adhere to this incarnation of the 2257 statute — but the wave of fear it produced is tangible. Attorneys for some websites, many unfamiliar with the code's storied history, have cowered under the threat of inspection, choosing instead to change their sites to avoid scrutiny.

Which is why the government will most likely stall any further judicial review as long as it can.

After all, it's already taken two more years just to get to this point, and if this administration knows the statute is eventually doomed, its best interests are served by postponing the inevitable. Until the highest court in the land puts the beat-down on this unconstitutional code, the chilling effect of possible prosecution will continue to be felt in what has always been the vanguard of the fight for free expression — the adult entertainment industry.

Even if you don't have an entire wing of your estate dedicated to the canon of Ron Jeremy, history has proven it unwise to encourage the persecution of one group, lest that group contain you later on. Especially with that iPhone photo we talked about earlier.

The Tragic Failure

Perhaps the most perverse element of 2257 is that, by using it as a blunt instrument to attack all adult content, it fails on its own premise of being a weapon against the creation and distribution of child pornography.

When the statute was first passed almost 20 years ago, both the porn industry and the Department of Justice were still smarting from the whole Traci Lords debacle, where it was revealed that the starlet had been working in the industry well before her 18th birthday. And while the millions in lost revenue from the loss of her catalog was fair evidence that the studios had been fooled by Lords' fake ID (and a talent well beyond her young years), the government nevertheless leapt at the chance to regulate an industry that they loathed.

So currently, every adult title must keep detailed records of everyone involved, just in case dark-suited FBI agents invade their offices. And that's every adult movie — even the ones that feature 70-year-old women and well-worn former fluffers engaged in geriatric carnal knowledge that nobody with half a brain would confuse with kiddie porn. As with the undocumented immigrant labor issue, many regard this extra record-keeping as an unreasonable burden. Opponents of the current 2257 statute maintain that the Constitution gives the government the burden of establishing whether or not adult content is child pornography — instead of placing a burden on the producers of proving content isn't child pornography.

In their new unanimous decision, the three judges of the Sixth Circuit also noted this peculiar irony: the tragic failure of 2257 to actually protect children by concentrating heavily on material so obviously outside this scope.

Leading the charge against the legislation was the Free Speech Coalition, a renowned trade organization and constitutional crusader — and they cited our 1998 victory against Janet Reno.

Reed Lee, the chair of their Legal Committee and an FSC board member, agreed with the Court that the legislation was too vague to actually afford any protection to children. "This is one of the arguments that we have been asserting all along and that we will continue to carry if necessary."

Of course, the court's decision is by no means the last word on 2257, and Lee believes the government will probably make its next move in the coming weeks. The Department of Justice could request that the Sixth Circuit court review its decision, or it could ask the United States Supreme Court to take up the case. It could also try to re-write the statute to address the court's concerns, though of the three justices on the Sixth Circuit, only one even believed that "portions of the section can be judicially salvaged."

Even if it's ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, Congress can always try to create a new statute without the same defects. (This isn't the first time the Department of Justice has been spanked for trying to bully the adult industry with anti-lifestyle legislation disguised as child protection.) But not everyone's as cynical about the outcome as I am.

In a press release, the currently-victorious FSC assessed the possibility that Congress could simply attempt a third iteration of the code. "Given the decision yesterday, that would not be easy to do and might not result in anything like the burdensome record-keeping requirements now on the books, but we must remain vigilant against efforts to revive Section 2257 legislatively.

If there's any hope today, it's the end result of a very long fight. "The Free Speech Coalition has worked hard over the past few years to be in a position to influence events in Congress as well as the courts. Our efforts there may not always be high-profile, but we are confident that we are in a position to be heard on policy issues as we never have before."

Eliminating the tools with which zealous, almost always Republican-controlled, U.S. Attorneys use the War on Porn to target whomever they don't want running around in society, is not just good for the adult industry — it protects all of us.

See Also:
Art or Bioterrorism: Who Cares?
Ed Rosenthal, Big Man of Buds
Sex Panic: An Interview with Debbie Nathan
Is It Fascism Yet?
Prior Permission From Government To Be Required For Each Flight

Racist Porn Stars

Hillary Scott Does Black Guys

What separates Hillary Scott from two of the most recent top-earning porn starlets, Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick?

All three started off as fresh-faced, natural-breasted ingénues in the eternal Ed Powers series "Dirty Debutantes." All three ante'd up for silicon 'n' surgery. And all three had something special about them that made them the stars they are. But the difference is simple — Hillary Scott fucks black guys.

And is proud of it. No, even better, she loves it. While few besides Scott will talk about it, there's a tangible streak of racism running through the adult entertainment industry. This despite the fact that ethnic-themed videos are a huge revenue stream, and performers like Shane Diesel and Lexington Steele are familiar names to porn enthusiasts. I attempted to contact both for this piece, but assume my chances would've been better if I looked like Hillary Scott as opposed to Vic Tayback...

But I cornered the lovely and black-cock-lovin' Hillary before this year's Adult Video News Awards show in Las Vegas (natch), and asked her about life being an up-and-coming (literally) young starlet and those other young starlets who choose to avoid interracial scenes for fear of its impact on their careers.

Steve Robles: What's a nice girl next door like you doing in a place like Vegas?

Hillary Scott: (Laughs) Well, it may appear that I'm a nice innocent girl, but inside, I'm kind of a dirty whore!

SR:I should point out what a beautiful smile you have on your face when you say that.

HS: Say it with joy. Say it with pride. "I'm a dirty whore!"

SR: I've heard in interviews, some girls say that they hesitate to do inter-racial scenes because of what it'll do their career. What do you think about an attitude like that?

HS: I think a girl that thinks doing inter-racial will hurt her career, it just makes her look like a racist asshole. I mean, it's just absurd to me. How are you going to say that? With all your black fans out there hearing that, and also all the black people in the industry, too, that's just incredibly offensive.

You either like all cock or you don't. If you don't like working with them because you're not attracted to them, then just say that. Don't say "It'll hurt your career." That's fucking racist! It's bullshit!

SR: Speaking of controversies, here's another one. Female orgasms — do you think there are enough of them in adult?

HS: I do not! I think a lot of girls are just straight-up hookers — they just do it for the money and they're not really enjoying it. And I can tell!

Working with girls you can tell when they're faking an orgasm or not. And I'm like, if you're there, and you're getting fucked — why not at least enjoy it? You know? And it looks so much better on camera.

SR: I've never understood that myself. I've got lots of conspiracy theories about it. If you're a guy, and you've ever given a girl an orgasm — or if you're a girl and you've ever given another girl an orgasm — you're not going to fall for that for a single second! That kind of over-blown, "Oh! Oh! Oh!" — you know? Whereas I've seen you announce that you're going to have an orgasm — and then you have an orgasm!

HS: Yes. In fact, I refuse to fake orgasms on camera. I refuse to! I'm like, if you want me to say I'm having an orgasm, then...somebody needs to give me an orgasm!

SR: Have you been asked to do such a dirty thing?

HS: Yeah. It depends on the director, but yeah! Some of them really need that in the scene, and I'm like, "Well listen, you know, let me give you something real."

SR: Or give me a guy who fucks me 'til I come!

HS: Or that! That would be preferable...

SR: Do you see yourself getting into the business side or going behind the camera?

HS: Well, I actually have already. This past weekend I shot a movie for Sexy Pictures. It's called Extreme Asshole Makeover.

SR: And what does that involve?

HS: It involves pretty young girls getting their little tight assholes made over. And that includes gaping and double penetration and lots of fingering and big dildos in the ass. Good times!

SR: Fun for the whole family!

HS: Yeah!

SR: What's up with this whole asshole bleaching thing, anyways? Are you into it?

HS: I don't need it. I have a nice little pink, puckered asshole. But I think it's more for the girls who have the brown asshole, and it kind of always looks like they didn't wipe all the way. So, I don't need the anal bleaching, but I can respect it. I'm not gonna hate on the girls that need it and do it. Good for them!

SR: So you did "Night Shift Nurses Escort Service" for Hustler. Do you like playing dress-up in your private life?

HS: Mmmm... Not so much in my private life. All my weird fantasies and kinks? I get all that out doing porn. That's like my playground, and where I meet exhibitionists, and I get like... That's my dirty side.

See, when I'm at home, I'm the girl next door! But on camera, I'm the dirty whore!

SR: I'm starting to get the picture! So when I say "romance," what does that mean to you?

HS: Romance? (Pause) Geez. Well, romance to me, honestly... (pause) is absolutely nothing sexual. Because I have so much sex with so many random people all the time, that's like — that's fucking. So romance to me is like a nice, generic...and cuddling, you know, and my vagina and my asshole left alone! For just like an hour or so!

SR: What did you do for Valentine's Day?

HS: I've managed to be single on Valentine's Day every year.

SR: It sucks, doesn't it.

HS: It's annoying.

SR: It's the one time of the year that you actually have to get defensive about being single.

HS: Yeah, so what! I like being single. It's a choice!

SR: Well, I know that your fans prefer you being single.

HS: Well of course. I don't see why it matters. Even when I have a boyfriend, I'm still fucking on camera, you know? Still being a whore.

SR: Now to the really important stuff. Tell us about being a Cannabis Cup judge. Now first of all, what makes you qualified for such a position?

HS: Well, I'm kind of a pot-head.

I've kind of been one for several years, so I think I'm more than qualified to select a good-quality bud.

SR: How did that work out?

HS: The first day I went to Amsterdam I started doing shrooms, and I didn't really stop, so I never actually made it to the cannibis contest.

I was so fucked up on shrooms, that's all I did the entire time I was in Amsterdam. But, um, I'd have to say I had a lot of fun.

See Also:
Adopt an African Hottie's Clitoris
Pregnant Nympho Sex
Screech's Sex Tape Follies
World Sex Laws
Dana Plato, Porn Star

CWILF Island: Hottie Candidate Spouses

michelle obama

Let's face it, being attractive has never exactly been a prerequisite for being First Lady of the Nation.

Take Margaret Taylor, wife of 13th President Zachary Taylor. Now there's a face only a shovel could love. And Herbert Hoover's wife? I dare any erection to withstand that vision. (It bears noting that, of course, these guys weren't exactly Marky Mark, either.)

Sure, there was the occasional Jackie Kennedy, the odd Ellen Arthur, betrothed to 21st President Chester A. Arthur. On balance, though, most of them were as funny-lookin' as their presidential partners.

Times have changed, of course, and today a shady character like Nixon — that shifty, sweaty fucker — could hardly run for dog catcher. So obviously (and especially in this culture where double standards rule the day), everyone's had to step up their game to be taken seriously in national politics.

But in Campaign '08 the candidates' wives have taken it to a level that didn't exist even just four years earlier. Don't believe me? Take a look at how much worse they looked in 2004!


So while most of the media are content to pretend to quibble about issues, we've decided to assess the fledgling campaign the only way it really deserved to be qualified – by rating the Top 5 CWILFs of the 2008 presidential race!

Just so that we're clear here: CWILF = Candidate's Wife I'd Like to Fuck. I'm embarrassed to have even had to spell that out, but you never know.

Now without further adieu, let's bring on the CWILFs!

5. Judith Giuliani

Judith Giuliani

Madonna mia! I'm a sucker for Italian broads, so in some ways I like her more than some of the others. But, she's guilty by association, so the fact she's willing to be with this skeevosa makes the baby Jesus cry. What can you say about a guy whose own daughter didn't tell him she was accepted to Harvard, and who publicly endorsed Barack Obama just to spite him? But more on her later …

4. Jackie Dodd

Jackie Dodd

The hotter of the two (!) Mormon candidates’ wives. And you never know about those magic underwear – everyone assumes that these must be granny panties, but since nobody’s talking about it, they could have modernized them into thongs or bikinis. And the fact that she managed to make her husband forget about dating the likes of Bianca Jagger and Carrie Fisher (in her hot Jedi days) says something, right?

3. Michelle Obama

michelle obama

Oh my, forget about the historical implications of Barack in the so-called White House, how about some hot chocolate in the Oval(tine) Office? Some bootylicious lovin’ in the Lincoln Bedroom? Is that even irony? I’m not sure, but I’m into it. The fact that she’s no wallflower (she’s described herself as having a “loud mouth”) only makes my hardened wood petrified.

2. Elizabeth Kucinich

Elizabeth Kucinich

Progressive superhero Dennis Kucinich has been getting his balls broken over his new hot, young trophy wife, and I for one am going to make sure this doesn't stop anytime soon. I haven't seen an example of beauty and the beast this extreme since, uh... the last time I got laid. Thank god she at least has a little beaver tooth thing going on with her mighty incisors, or else someone might accuse him of pandering to the electorate.

1. Jeri Thompson

Jeri Thompson

Despite the ick factor of actually imagining her curling up with that flubbery fossil, the wife of jowly, drawling old bastard Fred Thompson takes the fuckability cake. She's one of them there smart chicks, too (if I go to my grave without ever having banged a political consultant, it'll only be because god thinks I'm a douche and wants to see me unhappy).

Honorable Mention: Bill Clinton

Okay, he’s actually more of a CHILF, and I certainly don’t wanna fuck him, but I’m amazed by how many girls consider this guy an unqualified, no-questions-asked panty-dropper. Issues of age, infidelity, even politics fly right out the window. So for the love of god, if Hillary wins, somebody keep him away from zaftig Jewess interns, will ya? Also: can a First Gentleman be impeached? Pray for a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Honorable Mention: The Daughters

I decided not to make a separate list of candidates’ daughters I want to fuck. Not because that would be “wrong” (please!) – only because I couldn’t come up with a cool acronym. CDILFs? Doesn’t work.

But I can't resist calling out the previously mentioned Caroline Hanover (Giuiliani) and Meghan McCain, who’s just about the complete opposite of Hanover. McCain is accompanying her father on the campaign trail, maintaining a blog, and looking like the hottest prospective First Daughter since, um, the last REAL one. (Yes, I'm the father of Jenna Bush's baby. There you have it. Though she told me girls can't get pregnant that way.)

See Also:
Racist Porn Stars
Democratic Cartoon Candidates
The Five Faces of Bush
Senator Vitter's Suppressed Statement
John Edwards' Virtual Attackers Unmasked
YouTube's 5 Sorriest Questions for the 2008 Presidential Candidates

Britney vs. Bin Laden: A Celebrity Comeback Battle

What a weird, wacky week of high-profile iconic resurrections!

In one corner, we have a disheveled, sickly looking maniac who can barely move and appears to be in some kind of drug-enduced stupor while babbling messages of madness.

And in the other corner, we have Osama bin Laden.

But are these two really that different? Neither of 'em have had a decent hit in the U.S. since 2001, that's for sure. And right now both are hell-bent on trying to regain some traction in terms of contemporary relevance… appropriately enough, both in the field of video.

Ask any of Osama's wives, and they'll tell you our favorite joltin' jihadist is actually the sentimental type, and has got hisself all verklempt over today's anniversary of that thing that happened six years ago. (Which he did. Yes, I said it. Now all you conspiracy nuts can spam me at FlossWithMyAssHair.com.)

First we get last week's reminder from bin Laden that he continues to play Road Runner to our Wile E. Coyote … meep meep! Sure, he looked about as stiff as Andy Dick at a Boys & Girls Club Pancake Breakfast, but look as good at that age I will not, hmm?

At least you gotta give props to his cinematographer for making sure his colostomy bag stayed outta the shot. Bravo! Now we're expecting his second video in as many weeks. Joy! I can't wait for another chance to be compelled to put aside my wicked Western ways and embrace Mustafa or whoever.

It certainly won't happen while I fight the urge to join the chorus of Britney-haters who seem to think it was a bad idea for her to shake her flabby, unsexy ass in front of millions of people. Yeah, like I can ever resist that temptation.

Everyone knows I'm no homo (although I'm totally gay for that new Iron Man trailer!), and I certainly likes a little jiggle on my jello. But this is no Beyoncé-esque, taut, round rump we're talking about here. Britney might as well tattoo the Frito-Lay logo on her ass.

Okay, so she's not quite Gwen Stefani in the post-natal department … whatever. Obviously it was all about the "dancing." I mean, I tell people I "dance," and I certainly will go out to clubs and "dance." But when I saw her on the MTV Video Music Awards, I knew instinctively that this was the same "dance" I do around 1:45 about 20 minutes after I should've left the club in a drunken heap. Or that time I decided whiskey and Vicodin would really unleash the Deney Terrio in me. Not so much. (The look on 50 Cent's face said it all – I had the same look when I saw Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity show and they launched a midget 50 feet into the air.)

Of course, this is all to promote a new single ("Gimme Monostat 7" or something like that) from the Brit-ster, whose recent contributions to the world include keeping various nannies busy and showing off her cooch.

So now that we've introduced our challengers, let's see how they stack up against each other in hand-to-hand comeback combat...

Tale of the Tape

bin Laden – Exiled terror icon. Once a reviled boogeyman for the Bush administration, now more like the Johnny Carson of Jihad. (You see him once in a blue moon, and he looks worse every time).

Britney – Fallen pop tart. Once a Madison Ave poster girl inspiring erections across lines of age, race and income, now more like the girl you end up bangin' after a drunken 3 a.m. introduction at the Jack in the Box drive-thru.

Let's get ready to rumble...

Still Sexy?

bin Laden – I don't know, man, it's not really working for me without that whole rough 'n' rugged cave thing going on. Plus I prefer my terrorists wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth. Ol' Ossie just doesn't have that eye of the tiger anymore.

Britney – She looks like her belly button stinks. Ew.

Winner … bin Laden!


bin Laden – As previously stated, the guy just really doesn't have the dynamism anymore. And unlike Britney's choreographer, al-Qaeda's production team didn't have the wits to surround him with high-flying, acrobatic jihadists doing somersaults in the background to give it some sorely needed pizzazz.

Britney – Like watching a perfect trainwreck. Except the train is too fat and drunk to speed down the tracks, and it kinda waddles its way toward disaster. Britney's performance was her generation's "Aloha from Hawaii." Only Elvis didn't look this bad till he was 40, and she's … what?! 25?! Sweet mother Mary!!

Winner … Britney!

Will It Fly?

bin Laden – Is there anyone left with half a brain who hasn't realized this guy is the Colonel Sanders of Islamic extremism? Twenty years from now nobody will even remember he existed, but they'll still be handing out buckets of terror with his face on 'em. The only real question left for bin Laden is how much time his kidneys will leave for him to get really desperate for attention.

Britney – Judging by what a predictable mess the last five years became for Ms. Toxic, I'm guessing not. I mean, think about it – we're talking about someone who's managed to make Christina Aguilera look like Ute Lemper by comparison! The only real question left for Britney is whether she'll end up like Anna Nicole Smith. Although I personally have little interest in seeing her bloated corpse anytime soon. Not when her bloated non-corpse is still worth some entertainment...

Winner … You tell us, in the comments.

A Christmas Conspiracy

I was hanging out with my friend Gigi last week when the subject of TV Christmas specials came up.

Now, Gigi is one of the few people left in my peer group who, when presented with the name "Jesus," still thinks of our Lord and Savior, and not of a purple-clad pederast bowler, so you can imagine my shock at her choice of words regarding these perennial chestnuts of network broadcasting.

"I fucking hate those goddamned things," she spat. "All those Rankin/Bass cartoons and claymation things — I hate them."

I was flummoxed. Okay, well, for whatever reason I'm pretty corny about Christmas, and I watch "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" every year, but at the same time always thought "Frosty the Snowman" was gay as hell. So I cut her a little slack.

But certainly she must have had a soft spot for "A Charlie Brown Christmas"! Even the most godless of hellbound heathens at least gets a kick out of the sexual tension betwixt Schroeder and Lucy van Pelt.

"Oh god, I hate Charlie Brown worst of all. He's a total pussy, and Lucy is a little bitch who needs to get slapped."

I took a strong quaff of my holiday porter and struggled to get my bearings. My whole universe had been upended. But her reasoning was rather compelling — she pointed out that each and every one of these specials was fucked up in its own way, and depressing as hell.

Let's take a look at the most high-profile suspects, shall we?

» A Charlie Brown Christmas — Charlie is not only subject to constant derision by the ruthless hussies of the neighborhood, but also is practically (and literally, in the version found here) crucified like The Big J himself for bringing back a tree not to their liking. It takes Linus' fire-and-brimstone preaching to scare the cunts back to humanity.

» Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer — Boy, where do we start with THIS gem? Well, first, there's the total douchebag fascist of a Santa, grumpily employing an army of midgets with an iron fist. Then there's Rudolph's drunken, abusive prick of a dad, who's so bad that Rudolph has to run away. A little bit more realism and Rudolph would have ended up a gay street hustler on Santa Monica Blvd. And don't get me started on the eugenics experiment known as the Island of Misfit Toys.

» Frosty the Snowman — As previously mentioned, I was never a big fan of this one, but it's worthy of note simply because they manage to snuff out the main character. Of a Christmas special. Ouch.

» The Year Without a Santa Claus — Everyone loves Heat Miser and Snow Miser, but one of the reasons they stick out so much in this special is that even Santa himself is so depressed that he's about to go out like Goering at Nuremberg.

Strangely enough, in all my years of watching these Christmas specials, I hadn't really noticed The Pattern — not a single one of these shows presented a cheery vision of the yuletide season. But now I had swallowed the blue pill and could see it all for what it was — clearly a conspiracy (by the Masons? Jews??) to thin the population by driving the most emotionally vulnerable of us to blow out our brain stems when the Heat Miser shows up.

What easier way to deal with a global population that's spiraling out of control? Certainly there's little other incentive for ABC and CBS to keep trotting these dinosaurs out; each year brings diminishing returns in the ratings department, as the specials are hardly even promoted, and parents who give a shit have already bought "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" from the DVD bargain bin.

Maybe the most diabolical aspect of the conspiracy is how it's managed to identify the weakest of our race, like the wounded wildebeests they are. Yes, I'm talking about the few poor bastards out there at the mercy of a pair of rabbit ears and coked-up TV execs, forced to subsist on the meager crumbs of network TV.

I can remember one dark Christmas season when I was one of them, the huddled masses of immigrants, white trash, buggerers and thieves. I'm pretty sure the only channel I could get on my aluminum foil-enabled coat-hanger antenna was ABC, and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was on. So I watched it.

I was doing pretty well at first. As sad as Vince Guaraldi's music is, I am sometimes actually comforted by melancholy music, so that was okay. It was only after Charlie Brown got that fuckin' sad-sack tree that my psyche became unhinged. By the time Linus started quoting scripture, I was busy writing my last note in Crayon with my head stuck in the oven.

Luckily, just as I was drifting into blissful unconsciousness, I remembered that the first Victoria's Secret Fashion Show was due to air that next week, and the prospect of rubbing one out to free TV (quite a rarity) reinvigorated my soul. In the interim between that first live-action lingerie catalog and this year, we've seen the rise of, among other things, affordable HDTV. Rabbit ears are a thing of the past, and angel wings —in their digital sexiness — are the future.

If the theme of the old Christmas specials was in fact that the holidays are red in tooth and claw, then that suggests evolution — analog begets digital, dour animation begets barely-clad boner bait. So maybe it isn't such a lamentable plot after all. I might even venture to say, "It's a Wonderful Conspiracy!"

See Also:
Christmas 2.0: Subverting the Holidays With Re-dubbing
Death at Christmas
They're Dreaming of a Boobs Christmas
Christmas with Hitler